Thursday, September 30, 2010

B16: Spe Salvi

I've been re-reading Pope Benedict's encyclical letter Spe Salvi and came across this great quote:

"Christianity did not bring a message of social revolution like that of the ill-fated Spartacus, whose struggle led to so much bloodshed. Jesus was not Spartacus, he was not engaged in a fight for political liberation like Barabbas or Bar- Kochba. Jesus, who himself died on the Cross, brought something totally different: an encounter with the Lord of all lords, an encounter with the living God and thus an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within."
-Spe Salvi 4

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Review: Christian Community Bible

Timothy has asked me to give a guest review of the CCB for the Catholic Bibles blog. I will be reviewing my copy of the CCB, which is from the 17th edition, printed in approximately in 1996. I am very fond of the CCB, and hope that my review can be a good introduction for those who haven’t used it before.
The Catholic Community Bible: Catholic Pastoral Edition (CCB) is a dynamic-equivalence translation from the Philippines. The CCB is something of a family of translations started by Fr. Bernardo Hurault for the people of the Third World. Much like la Bible de Jérusalem inspired the creation of the Jerusalem Bible, the CCB was born in Spanish as la Biblia Latinoaméricana. Currently there are similar translations into French, Chinese, Tagalog, Ilonggo, Cebuano (three languages spoken in the Philippines), and Bahasa (a language spoken in Indonesia and Malaysia). The English edition was first published around 1985.
Stylistic Points/Word Choice
The CCB translates the tetragrammaton as “Yahweh” consistently throughout the Old Testament, and seems to be mildly influenced by inclusive language. Paul writes to his “brothers and sisters”, but the first psalm is clearly about a man:
1 Blessed is the one
who does not go where the wicked gather,
or stand in the way of sinners,
or sit where the scoffers sit!
2 Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord
and meditates day and night
on his commandments.
3 He is like a tree beside a brook
producing its fruit in due season,
its leaves never withering.
Everything he does is a success.

Following the Septuagint, the CCB has “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14.
The CCB mostly follows a two-column format for the Old Testament and a one column format in the New Testament, though this is not done mechanically. Canticles in the Old Testament take the entire page and historical narrative in the New Testament (especially in Acts) is shown in two columns. I’ve only found a few pages in my edition without cross-references, and even a page or two where the cross-references were so many that they didn’t fit in the space provided at the bottom of the page. Additionally, the font size for important verses is bigger than the font size for less important verses, visually emphasizing those verses.
One of the things that I think that makes the CCB stand out is its footnotes and introductory essays. Each book begins with a topical discussion as well as the book’s relevance to modern life. Similarly footnotes both explain the text and reflect on the contemporary issues. Here is an excerpt from the footnote from Revelations chapter 18:
The great Babylon is of all times and is recognized in every power which pretends to give people a total solution to their problems while enclosing them in their net. We are leaving a century where many have identified it according to their personal point of view, be it international capitalism, or materialist socialism. It would be false to think that only one of these systems served the plans of the devil: the master of this world respects no frontiers and plays equally well on both sides. Atheist governments persecute the Church but very often the Church confronts violent or subtle persecution from the liberal classes or from dictatorships that pretend to be attached to Christian principles. A Church in which the best “good news” is for the poor will necessarily be persecuted by systems that produce millions of margina­lized people.
Here is the whole book of Revelations from the CCB’s website. If you’re looking for wishy-washy notes, look elsewhere! This pastoral approach (the CCB is called the “Catholic Pastoral Edition”, after all) can cause some of the notes to seem dated, though this can be exaggerated. The Cold War may be over, but life issues, the influence of the media on society, and social justice are just as important now as then. For example, the note to chapter 18 goes on to condemn what we now know as the dictatorship of relativism.
Reorganized Canon
The CCB has somewhat reorganized the order of the books of the Old Testament. The introduction to my edition says they did this to divide the canon into groups of “Law”, “History”, and “Writings” similar to how they are grouped in the Masoretic Text. In practice this means that the CCB’s Old Testament is ordered following Jewish tradition. The CCB’s Wikipedia page has a helpful table that explains how this compares to the Catholic canon and the Jewish canon. Additionally, some verses and chapters (most notably in Esther) are reordered. This basically means that if you’re coming to this book familiar with other Bibles you’ll need to use the index to find your way around the Old Testament. This also causes problems going the other way, since anyone who’s only read the CCB will be totally lost in every other Bible. I still can’t find Psalms in the NAB, for instance (though from its reputation this may be for the best).
Odds and Ends
In addition to the text and notes the CCB has a list of the morning and evening psalmody of the four-week psalter (without antiphons). It also has a topical index in the front helping readers locate specific verses that discuss various Catholic doctrines, and a section that lines up the stories of the synoptic gospels. My edition of the CCB also has helpful aids on the side that show where each book is clearly marked. I’m not sure what these are called exactly, but they are very helpful when I’m looking for a particular passage (most dictionaries have these, for similar reasons). I assume this was put in so that the reader can find the books of the Old Testament easily, since they aren’t where they’re “supposed” to be. The CCB also has artwork that goes with each book, often depicting modern takes on each book’s theme. The picture that goes with Joshua has an African man walking into a city, and the First Letter of Saint Peter has a portrait of John Paul II looking pensively at the reader.
One thing I do not like about the CCB is how it translates the Beatitudes. The CCB uses “fortunate” where more traditional translations use “blessed”. Also, in the CCB Jesus starts many of his sentences with “Truly, I say to you…”, instead of the NAB’s “Amen, I say to you…”. Both are relatively minor points, but which some people might be sensitive to. Additionally the CCB doesn’t have a list of the readings from the lectionary.
Overall I am very happy with my edition of the CCB, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new translation for personal study!
Many thanks to reader Francesco for this fine review of the CCB. I feel like I have never really done the CCB justice on this blog, so I was very excited that Francesco agreed to put together this review.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NRSV Thinline Thoughts

The NRSV is about to be available in a thinline edition, which I think may be for the first time ever for that translation. In mid-October, HarperOne will be publishing a thinline NRSV in editions with and without the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals. As mentioned on this blog on numerous occasions, I have always wanted a thinline Catholic Bible. So, needless to say, I am very excited about this release. As far as I know, there has never been an official thinline edition of the NRSV-CE, RSV-CE, NAB, JB, NJB, DR, CCB or any other English language Catholic translation. Am I wrong on this assertion?

As of today, these first two HarperOne editions with and without the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals, which are set to be released on October 19th, will be followed by a specifically Catholic edition in February. While I am planning on getting the edition with the Deuterocanonicals in October, I will also pick up the Catholic edition in February. But, why is there an almost four month wait for the Catholic edition? I am not sure. Will there be a difference, outside of the OT book order, between the Catholic edition and the ones set to be released in October? Hmm....

So, this leads to my question that I propose to you: If you could add one thing to the NRSV Catholic Thinline which is not included in the October releases what would it be? Let's not go with the old standby "crossreferences" since that seems too easy of a choice and something that most NRSV publishers seem unwilling to undertake.

To help you a bit, below are the features which are included in the October releases:

*Less than 1 inch thick
*The Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical books of Scripture
*Easy-to-read 9-point type in a double-column setting
*Bonded leather with craft-sewn binding for added strength and long life
*Fine Bible paper to maximize readability and portability
*Concordance for finding key verses
*Gilded edges and a ribbon marker
*Presentation page and maps

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Year with the Church Fathers Promo

I saw this book in a local Catholic bookstore and it is very beautiful. If I ever decide to get, a review would certainly follow.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

CEB: The Human One

Probably one of the most obvious and risky translation decisions the Common English Bible committee went with was translating ben adam (Hebrew) or ho huios tou anthropou (Greek) as "the Human One" throughout the Old and New Testament. I certainly give them credit for taking this risk, but does it work?
Here is a long quote from the CEB blog about why they made this decision. It is worth taking a look at:
ben adam (Hebrew) or ho huios tou anthropou (Greek) is translated as "human being" (rather than "son of man") except in cases of vocative address, where we render "Human" (instead of "Son of Man" [KJV] or "Mortal" [NRSV], e.g. Ezek 2:1). For the NT phrase, ho huios tou anthropou (e.g., Matt 9:6) we render "you will know that the Human One has authority on earth to forgive sins."
At the exegetical and linguistic level, the Semitic idiom, ben adam, occurs frequently in the Old Testament. (A linguistic analogy is bene yisrael, which means Israelites.) Biblical scholars, in a rare example of consensus, are certain that the Semitic idiom ben adam translates as "human being" or "human" in natural English. If we were creating a literal translation, which we inherit from the Septuagint Greek translation of the Semitic idiom, or more precisely from the KJV tradition for English readers, we would probably render "son of human." But we aim to avoid "biblish" where possible and translate such Hebrew or Greek constructions into a natural English idiom. In English we don't say or write "I was speaking with sons of Ben" or "I called children of Ben." Instead, in the target language we write, "I spoke to Ben's children."
The Aramaic equivalent to ben adam in Daniel 7:13 is bar enosh. The book of Daniel anticipates that the Messiah will be "like a human being." This text is the probable source (along with 1 Esdras) for the messianic expectation that is rendered in the New Testament title for Jesus huios to anthropou, which meant to Jewish readers in the first century that Jesus is a human being, just as they expected about the Messiah.
Darrell L. Bock writes, "The key to this title and Jesus' use of it is the imagery of Dan. 7:13-14, where the term is not a title but a description of a figure who rides the clouds and receives authority directly from God in heaven. The Old Testament background to the title does not emerge immediately in Jesus' ministry, but is connected to remarks made to the disciples at the Olivet discourse and Jesus' reply at his examination by the Jewish leadership. The title is appropriate because of its unique fusion of human and divine elements. A 'son of man' is simply an expression that describes a human being. In contrast to the strange beasts of Dan. 7, this is a figure who is normal, except for the authority he receives. In riding the clouds, this man is doing something otherwise left only to the description of divinity in the Old Testament (Exod. 14:20; 34:5; Num. 10:34; Ps. 104:3; Isa. 19:1). In addition, the title was in Aramaic an indirect way to refer to oneself, making it a less harsh way to make a significant claim. Despite its indirectness, the nature of Jesus' consistent use of the term makes it clear that he was referring to himself, not someone else" (Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels ,602-03).
We tested this translation with hundreds of readers. Several found the change jarring. One leader responded, "For me, at an emotional level it feels contrived. Unlike an onomatopoeia it feels empty and sterile; it is not a phrase that draws me into wanting to discover or explore or experience the meaning (and Person) that it represents. At a cognitive level it seems to cut off any sense of divinity to Jesus. I realize the Christology of Jesus is a challenging idea, but to call him the Human One seems to deny the possibility that he is the Son of God and God the Son."
The response of this reader mirrors what we heard in reading groups. We asked, "What do you think "son of man" means for Jesus? Many responded that "Jesus is divine." This confusion is similar to stating, "At a cognitive level [Human One] seems to cut off any sense of divinity to Jesus." The feedback is very clear evidence that many English speaking Christians confuse the meaning of two literal titles that are applied to their knowledge of Jesus: "son of man" is confused with the meaning of "son of God." Indeed, at a cognitive level many of us have a view of Jesus that is so transcendent that the incarnation is temporary, perhaps only while Jesus was a baby. In reading Matthew we see that the phrase "Son of God" or rather "God's Son" (as a title) is used frequently in the CEB translation. The CEB also refers to God as Father, accurately. So we have no agenda in the New Testament translation to deny the fully human and fully divine nature of Jesus, then and now. There is a preference in the CEB for clear English. Human One will become less of a surprise over time, but admittedly it is surprising to encounter it the first time if you memorized the KJV version. The act of reading a new translation makes you think about assumptions.
Couple points I would like to start this discussion out with:
1) Yes, it is tough to see how changing an important Christological word like "Son of Man" can be justified. That title has been used the lexicon of theological discussion for 2000 years.
2) I do appreciate the fact that they will be translating it consistently throughout the Old and New Testament. One of my big beefs with the NRSV is that it is inconsistent in how it translates this title from both Old to New Testament, but also withing the New Testament itself (see Hebrews 2). The fact that the NRSV does contain the textual notes indicating this change does remedy this to some degree however.
3) This change is certainly jarring when you first come upon it.

Blogging to Return

Hey folks! I have been leading two senior retreats at the high school over the past week, so that is the main reason there has been no posts recently. Look for some new ones soon. Has there been any Catholic Bible news that I missed over the past week?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Benedict XVI Book from USCCB

A new book is set to arrive this month published by the USCCB. Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy will contain original works on the Pontiff from the likes of: "King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Shimon Peres of Israel, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, USCCB president, and John Thavis, Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service" as well as "Cardinal Edward Egan, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap., Cardinal Justin Rigali, Sister Eileen McCann, CSJ, and Ambassador Johnny Young." This 224 page book is due out early next week.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From Better Bibles Blog

I read this post on the Better Bibles Blog and thought it might be interesting to adapt this to a Catholic setting:

If you walk into a bookstore you will often see many different English Bible versions available for purchase. Often bookstore personnel are asked, “Which version should I purchase for _____?” In the blank would be a name of a category of Bible reader. What are some different categories (audiences) you can think of who read Bibles?

How would this be answered if you were buying for a Catholic friend of yours? Remember, while you may like something more literal or classic in style, like the Douay-Rheims, this may not be the best option for your friend.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A New Arrival

I had been wanting to order this book for a while, but only recently found a used copy for under five dollars. Although it is only 92 pages long, this 1991 publication is still a very informative book with articles by Bruce Metzger, Robert Denan, and Walter Harrelson, all translators on the Standard Bible Committee. So far, I have enjoyed "getting into the mind" of these translators, who discuss all sorts of issues that went into the NRSV, including it's use of inclusive language and the DSS. The Making of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible has four main sections, focusing on: 1) The history of the NRSV, 2) Recent discoveries and Bible translation, 3) Problems confronting translators of the Bible, 4) Inclusive language and the Bible.
While I don't agree with every decision the NRSV translators went with, it is clear from my reading thus far that many hours of serious discussion and debate went into the production of the NRSV. One of the themes that seems to regularly come up in my reading of this book is that the translators have a clear understanding that the NRSV is not perfect, and even "has it's flaws (84)." I appreciate their honesty. I also appreciate the access that the translators give us into how and why they made certain decisions. A book styled like this, which again is only 92 pages, would be a great benefit to those who read other Catholic Bibles, like the NAB and RSV-2CE. Don't you think?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Live Youth Bible: Catholic Edition Review

Now that I work full time in high school ministry to youth, the desire to have a solidly Catholic youth Bible continues to be an important need. Most of you are familiar with St. Mary's Press Catholic Youth Bible, which comes in both the NAB and NRSV. In addition, there are some others out there on the market, however many of them tend to simply be a standard edition of the NAB with various "youth" inserts. I always thought that was kind of lazy and uninspiring. On the other hand, one can easily go to their local Christian or secular book store and find many more options for Protestant youth. Many of them are very attractive in both their content and overall layout. So, for many Catholic youth looking for a personal youth Bible that is accessible and engaging, the Catholic Youth Bible has been the only real option. But, happily, that is beginning to change.

HarperOne, in cooperation with Our Sunday Visitor, has released this week the Live Youth Bible: Catholic Edition which comes in the NRSV translation. If this name and format look similar, Tyndale happens to publish a Protestant youth edition using the NLT. (I haven't had a chance to thumb through it yet to compare the two.) Either way, I am happy to say that, so far, I really like what I see. But first, here are some of the features:

LIVE includes art, photos, and other creative forms of self-expression by people their age who looked for God in their neighborhoods, schools, families, parishes, the world.

Challenging sidebars to help teens discover how the Bible can be a map for their lifelong faith journey and how it’s connected to every part of their lives.

Creative space to respond to what they’re reading—to doodle, journal, or paste pictures.

An invitation to join the online community at, where they can post their art, writing, and insights with others on the same journey.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Catholic Edition text that is fully approved for study by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In addition to what was stated above, the Live Youth Bible also contains new introductions to each Biblical book, a few Bible reading plans, features index, a list of helpful scriptural passages for various needs, and a concordance. The challenging sidebars include both inspirational quotes, as well as profiles of Catholic saints, questions/challenges, and forty "It's Tradition" which examines and explains various Catholic beliefs. There are probably over a hundred quotes scattered throughout this Bible from a broad range of people. One page you might find a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Ambrose, while on another you might read something from Jim Caviezel or Bono. Many of the quotes that I have read so far have been quite good, and they help to break up the text on each page. The "It's Tradition" treats areas such as Lectio Divina, the Deuterocanonical Books, Intercessory Prayer, the Litany of the Saints, and much more. Each is typically placed at a point in Scripture that is directly relevant to the topic.

The most unique element of this Bible is the desire by the publishers to have Catholic youth truly engage with the text. They really want the youth to write in their Bibles! Personally, I like this since I often encourage my students to do the same, even though many of them are hesitant to do so. The Live Youth Bible attempts to do this through the various sidebars that ask and challenge the youth to respond to a host of issues that relate either directly to the Biblical text or a particular youth issue. However, this is also accomplished through the "creative spaces" that are left blank at many places throughout the Bible. These "creative spaces" are of various sizes, some even taking up half a page or more. Tied into this Bible is a website, which intends to be a forum for youth to share their thoughts and creativity.

As I said above, I really like this youth Bible. I appreciate the desire of the publishers to encourage the youth to physically engage with the sacred text. The added online content will hopefully be updated regularly and be interesting to youth. I also like the size of this youth Bible, which is considerably smaller than the St. Mary's Press Catholic Youth Bible. I know that some of my students who used the CYB last year felt it was a bit too bulky. This is not the case with the Live Youth Bible. The addition of a concordance is also helpful, which is now missing on the latest revision of the CYB. I also like the fact that the Live Youth Bible does not contain any laminated page inserts. Again, the CYB has done this for their most recent edition, which I think just makes the book more awkward and the binding less secure.

Some things that I would like to see added to any future editions of the Live Youth Bible:

* Biblical Maps

* Sunday Lectionary Readings

* Additional "It's Tradition" sidebars

* Cross-References (That is an NRSV thing I know!)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Live Catholic Youth Bible Review Coming Soon!

I purchased a copy of HarperOne's Live Youth Bible: Catholic Edition over the weekend. I plan to have an initial review up in the coming days, so stay tuned. Pictures included!

Another Pope Benedict XVI Interview Book!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Faithful Friends Part II

Yes, I have been gifted another sizable lot of Biblical commentaries. And yes, by the same friend I mentioned before who found them for 25 cents each at the local Seminary. And yes, thank you so very much!

This set includes:
25 Volumes from the Thomas Nelson World Bible Commentary
Kasemann's Commentary on Romans
Danker's Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study

Again, many thanks to my friend who continues to enhance my Biblical studies library. I think I will need to share in these recent additions, so stay tuned for a possible contest in the near future.

"Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the Lord will find them.”
-Sirach 6:14-16 NRSV

Thursday, September 2, 2010

This Sunday's Second Reading

Here is the second reading for this coming Sunday, the twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time:

"I, Paul, an old man,
and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus,
urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus,
whose father I have become in my imprisonment;
I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.
I should have liked to retain him for myself,
so that he might serve me on your behalf
in my imprisonment for the gospel,
but I did not want to do anything without your consent,
so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary.
Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while,
that you might have him back forever,
no longer as a slave
but more than a slave, a brother,
beloved especially to me, but even more so to you,
as a man and in the Lord.
So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me."
-Philemon 9-10, 12-17 (NAB)

Anyone who has read St. Paul's letter to Philemon knows how wonderful it is. Sure, it can be easily missed, comprising barely one page in most Bibles, tucked between Titus and Hebrews. But even though it is Paul's shortest letter, it remains both charming and informative. In this letter we witness the love which Paul has for his spiritual brothers, Onesimus and Philemon. We also are able to read how Paul can be a master persuader, see 17-21.

However, I have one major problem with this Lectionary reading. I have no idea why those who put together the Sunday Lectionary did not include the entire letter. Length of the reading is certainly not an issue in this case. Don't get me wrong, I think the three year Sunday Lectionary was one of the best fruits of the Second Vatican Council, but every once in a while there are times when I wish they would have gone a little farther and included more of the sacred text in the reading.

In many ways, they have left off one of the best verses in the entire letter, verse 11:

"Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me." (NRSV).

Absent in this Sunday's reading is Paul's clever double pun on the name Onesimus, which means useful. Ah? Why?

In addition, they chopped off the end of the letter where Paul reminds Philemon that he owes him "even your own self. (19)" Paul shows both his brotherly love and his authority as pastor. It is a masterful, short letter by Paul, which should be read in it's entirety.